Are full stops placed inside or outside quotation marks? English Grammar translation jobs
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Are full stops placed inside or outside quotation marks?





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Consider the following sentence:

One meaning of vis-a-vis is "in relation to".

Should the full stop be inside the closing quotation mark or outside it?

Well, in US English, the full stop goes inside the closing quotation mark in this sentence. In British English, it is placed outside.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, however. The placement of punctuation relative to a closing quotation mark is surprisingly complex. What's worse, the rules for US English are quite different to those for British English.

Here then are both sets of rules:

------------
US ENGLISH
------------

(Users of British English are advised to skip this section to avoid confusing the issue.)

Users of US English place the comma in the following sentence inside the closing quotation marks.

"Hello," said John.

Incidentally, the comma is used to separate *what* was said from *who* said it. Here's another example:

"Hello," he said. "How are you today?"

Note that both the comma and the question mark are inside the quotes.

Here are some further examples. Once again, note that the punctuation is inside the quotation marks.

"Go home," she said to the dog.
"Go home!" she said to the dog.

Note that in the second example the exclamation mark is used instead of the comma, not in addition to it.

If one speech or quotation occurs within another, enclose the inner one in single quotes. For example:

"He said 'You should have known.' I was outraged!"

Notice that two distinct sentences finish at the word "known": "He said ..." and "You should ...". Even so, there is only a one full stop, not two, and it is (once again) inside the closing quote.

Here is another example that illustrates how we avoid double punctuation when two sentences end at the same word:

No one heard when he said "I need help."

See? Only one full stop. Needless to say, it's inside the closing quote.

Question marks, though, can be a little confusing when used with quotation marks. Compare these sentences:

He said "What is seven times six?"
Is it true that he said "What is seven times six"?

In the first one, it's consistent with what we've seen so far that the question mark is inside the closing quote.

In the second sentence, though, there are two questions being asked: "Is it true ..." and "What is ...". Even so, we only use a single question mark.

Notice, though, that it is placed *outside* the closing quote. (Just when you thought this was going to be easy! Don't worry, though, users of British English have it *much* harder.)

In summary, when punctuating quotations, US English places most punctuation inside the closing quotation mark.

-----------------
BRITISH ENGLISH
-----------------

(Users of American English are advised to skip this section to avoid confusing the issue.)

Users of British English place the comma in the following sentence outside the quotation marks.

"Hello", said John.

Incidentally, the comma is used to separate *what* was said from *who* said it. Here's another example:

"Hello", he said. "How are you today?"

Note that even though the comma is outside the quotes, the question mark is inside the quotes. Why?

The comma is not considered to be part of what was actually said, so it was placed outside the quotes. (It's part of the punctuation of the surrounding sentence, rather than of the quotation.) The question mark, however, is part of the spoken text, so it's placed inside the quotes.

There is a certain common sense to this, but it does make punctuating British English harder than punctuating US English.

Here's another example:

"Go home!", she said to the dog.

The exclamation mark is part of what was said (or, rather, *how* it was said), so it is inside the quotation marks. The comma is not part of what was said but is part of the surrounding sentence. It separates *what* was said from *who* said it, so it's outside the quotation marks.

Here's another example:

The man said "Is it strange?", but no one listened.

Notice that the comma is outside the quotes (because it's not part of what was said), but the question mark is inside them.

If an entire sentence is in quotation marks, the terminal punctuation is placed inside the quotes. For example:

"He's on his own with this one."

If one speech or quotation occurs within another, enclose it in single quotes if you normally use double quotes (and vice versa).
For example:

"He said 'You should have known'. I was outraged!"

Notice in this example, that two sentences finish on the word "known", yet there is only a single full stop, not two. Notice also that the full stop after "known" appeared outside the quotes.

Similarly, we write:

No one heard when he said "I need help".

Notice again that even though two sentences finish on the word "help", there is only a single full stop, and it occurs outside the quote.

It should come as no surprise then to learn that we write:

Is it true that he said "What is seven times six"?

not:

Is it true that he said "What is seven times six?"?

The intention here is to avoid using the same punctuation mark twice in succession.

Finally, consider these sentences:

He said "What is seven times six?".
He said "That's dreadful!".

In the first example, there is a question mark to end the question and a full stop to end the surrounding sentence. In the second example, there is an exclamation mark to end the quotation and a full stop to end the surrounding sentence.

In summary, when punctuating quotations, British English places some punctuation inside the closing quotation mark and some outside. Knowing which is which is almost rocket science.


Now might be a good time to have a cup of tea and a little lie down. :-)

 

You'll find many more helpful tips like these in Tim North's much applauded range of e-books. More information is available on his web site, and all books come with a money-back guarantee. http://www.BetterWritingSkills.com










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